Fifteen students and two faculty members from Älvdalen's Educational Center, a forestry and hospitality post-secondary technical college in Älvdalen, Sweden, recently completed a two-week exploration of East Texas through a partnership with SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and the School of Human Sciences’ Hospitality Administration program.
Robert Nilsson and Matthew Tunn, instructors at Älvdalen's Educational Center said the partnership greatly benefits the participating students, many of whom have never traveled abroad.
During their stay, students toured sights throughout the region focused on their particular area of study.
Dr. Hans Williams, associate dean of SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, and Dr. Chay Runnels, associate professor and hospitality administration program coordinator, organized the visit that included trips to state parks and historic sites, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, as well as logging operations.
The machines used in logging operations in the U.S. are very different than those used in Sweden, said Daniel Karlsson. Karlsson, who will graduate from Älvdalen's forestry program next year, said seeing the difference in forest operations has helped him grow as a student.
While the partnership places great focus on the vocational pursuits of the students involved, Dr. Williams said that perhaps most important is the personal growth that results from experiencing a different culture.
It is this broadening of horizons that led to the partnership between Älvdalen’s Educational Center and SFA over three years ago. Since that time, five SFA students have also visited Älvdalen's Educational Center for similar cross-cultural immersion.
“It’s more than just learning forestry, it’s about seeing a whole different culture,” Williams said.
Emma Sandgren, a nature and adventure tourism student at Älvdalen's Educational Center said that while she thought the Texas weather would be warmer, it did not detract from her enjoyment of the local cuisine and people.
The students’ visit culminated in a barbeque and tour of the Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center. Prior to the final meal and sendoff, the SFA Horseman’s Association demonstrated a range of versatility and skill-based events before facilitating horse rides for the students.
“The welcome we had, the hospitality and the friendliness, has just been overwhelming,” said Tunn.
This May, SFA’s Dr. Chay Runnels and Dr. Mary Olle, assistant professor of human sciences, will lead a 2015 Maymester course titled Connecting People with Nature in Sweden. The class will provide participants with the opportunity to explore the confluence of ecology, history and culture through visits to forest, recreation and hospitality resources in the Älvdalen region.